If I talk about the intense pain right now of how it feels to be a part of the Jewish people, I reckon I will be preaching to the converted. It’s been over four months, and the sheer agony of October 7th has not receded one iota – we are still yearning for our hostages to be returned home, we are still despairing over our murdered families and our fallen IDF heroes, and we are experiencing collective trauma as a nation.
I recently remarked to a colleague that for all that is happening to the Jewish people, I’m still so glad to have been born Jewish. “But don’t you ever wonder what life would be like if you weren’t?” she asked. “What if you were, I don’t know, someone living in the countryside somewhere in Europe or America, with no worries that people are constantly trying to kill you, your family and your friends? It would be so much more peaceful!”
Well, she had me stumped there.
On Sunday (11th February), I saw on the news that there was a stage-in at the British Museum. Thirty minutes from where I grew up in London. Round the corner from where I went to university. At the very same museum where I took my kids in the summer to learn about Ancient Egypt and Roman Britain. We wouldn’t have been able to do that trip this past Sunday – and especially not with kippot on my little boys’ heads.
I simply do not recognize what the world has become today. How is it that 2023-2024 has reverted to 1933 Germany? With a “Zionists off our campus” banner being paraded through Birmingham University? And cries of “Jihad” on the streets of London and elsewhere around the globe, with zero reaction from the authorities? And that’s just the UK – there are countless other similar scenarios globally. But how is the world allowing this to happen?
I often used to wonder, when learning about the Holocaust and reading survivors’ stories, what kind of person I would have been if I had been a non-Jew in Europe at that time. I like to think I would have stood up for what I knew was right. I like to think I would have saved a Jewish family from being murdered by hiding them in my home. I like to think so – but when push came to shove, with the Gestapo knocking at my door, would I have maintained my humanity? I like to think so.
And tragically, for those of us who always used to wonder: ‘How did the Holocaust come to be? How did people in Europe stand back and let this happen?’ Well, now we are watching the same precursors occur in real-time.
In the future, there will be people who look back at this time and think “I didn’t stand up for what was right”. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a powerful vlog urging viewers not to choose hate – again, whether or not he is preaching to the converted, I just don’t know. We can only hope that some people have taken his words to heart.
These days, the Gestapo may not be knocking at the door – but social media is not without its death threats, and as we saw in the case of Mike Freer, it takes guts to stand up for what you believe in today, as the world faces another type of evil that is insinuating itself into our societies.
This leads us to a particular type of despair, acting alongside the desperate mourning that we are currently doing for our fallen, that engulfs a Jewish person today when they look at the news, or go on social media. The all-pervading lies about Israel and the Jewish people are sickening, and it seems an impossible task to overcome it. Against my better judgement, I became embroiled in a “debate” on X (formerly Twitter) with someone who informed me that of course Israel is carrying out genocide because “everybody says so”. Everybody? Really? Of course “everybody” must be correct – but at only 0.01% of the world’s population, it isn’t so easy for the Jewish community to overcome the haters. I’m pretty sure this guy had never even met a Jewish person, much less been to Israel to realise for himself that “genocide”, “Israeli apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” are antisemitic tropes designed to psychologically wound us.
Spending large amounts of time online has also alerted me to a specific problem facing the Israeli hazbara (PR) machine, which on reflection may well go hand-in hand with rampant antisemitism – which is that we simply do not have enough journalists or newsreaders internationally who intrinsically understand the very basic premise that Israel is surrounded by people Who. Do. Not. Want. Peace.
I find myself screaming in frustration at these TV clips of newsreaders blaming Israel for Palestinian deaths when the blame should be laid firmly at Hamas’s door. They perch in their newsrooms blaming Israel for lack of humanitarian aid when Hamas is stealing most of it and in any case, in what war ever has the enemy needed to be provided with aid? They ask our Israeli spokespeople if there can be a two-state solution – but why are they directing these questions at Israel? These are questions that should be directed firmly at the murderers on our doorstep, who would kill us all in a second if they had a chance. Simply for being Jewish.
However, in Israel, we have been blessed with a unity that no one else has. Recent discussions on British TV channels have asserted that if push came to shove and WW3 broke out, Britain would be hard-pushed to find people who would voluntarily join the British army. But in Israel, the entire nation has rallied – with a 150% army sign-up, and every single person I know contributing to the war effort in different ways. “One heart, one nation” – if one Jewish person is hurting, we all hurt. And we all know that unless we are unified, we won’t survive.
While the word “kibbutz” has long been associated with Israel by those in the know, and has now gained infamy due to the massacres that took place in several kibbutzim on October 7th, I have found that many of my acquaintances around the world do not know what these kibbutzim represent. A kibbutz is the only place in the world where communism in its purest meaning of the word has flourished – it’s an actual community where everyone is equal. It hasn’t tilted a full political circle to become fascism, it hasn’t turned into a death cult, and generations have prospered there. Why? Because the pioneers that started them desperately needed these communities to be successful. The kibbutzim were borne out of necessity – and that was the need for survival. They had to work together, or they wouldn’t have survived ‘til the next summer.
Today, the whole nation of Israel is working together, and Israel will prevail because we have to. As the U.S. President Biden told the world, Golda Meir’s famous words “We have no place else to go” have stuck with him ever since he first heard them.
And it’s not all doom and gloom. We have our champions, our righteous among the nations, who are speaking up for us. Douglas Murray, Colonel Richard Kemp, Nate Buzolic, Judge Julia Sebutinde, among others – whether they know it or not, these people have become heroes. We can only hope that others follow in their footsteps, take the time to learn about Israel’s plight, choose not to simply follow Pallywood propaganda, and speak up for us as well.
But if it’s one thing we know about, it’s hope. Ha’tikva. So yes, I could live on a hilltop somewhere and live a much more simple life without worrying about which antisemitic incident occurred today, how many more lies were spoken about Israel, whether my nieces and nephews in London can walk down the street in their Jewish school uniform, whether my friends and friends’ sons and husbands will be safe on army duty as they try to protect us, whether there will be another terrorist attack, a knife-stabbing, a car-ramming, or thousands of rockets that cause me to run with my children to a bomb shelter – the list goes on.
But it wouldn’t be Israel. And Israel will prevail.
Am Yisrael Chai